Glasgow Warriors are gunning for their second home RaboDirect PRO12 victory in seven days when they face Zebre at Scotstoun Stadium on Friday (kick-off 7.35pm British Summer Time). The Warriors have made several changes to their match day squad of 23 for this game. In arguably the most notable change, former Golden Lions eighthman and captain Josh Strauss will be starting at eightman.
Another player who like Strauss has played in South Africa, namely Byron McGuigan who has represented Border Bulldogs, will also start for the Warrriors; at centre.
Gregor Townsend’s men secured a first success in their great new home last week, claiming a bonus point victory over Connacht.
Friday sees Italian club Zebre visit Scotland’s number one city for the first time, with the Warriors looking for their third straight tournament victory.
Having welcomed new signings Josh Strauss, Niko Matawalu and Ofa Fainga’anuku to the club via a half-time parade in the Connacht game, Glasgow supporters can now savour the prospect of watching the trio in live action.
No.8 Strauss, an inspirational captain for the Lions in Super XV and the Golden Lions in the Currie Cup, will start Friday’s match at No.8, with Fiji scrum-half Matawalu and Tonga prop Fainga’anuku in line to make their Warriors debuts from the bench.
The Scotstoun crowd will also be treated to a first competitive sighting of three exciting young backs: one-time Border Bulldogs centre Byron McGuigan, part of the Scotland 7s squad last season, and Scottish Rugby Elite Development players Fraser Thomson and Sean Kennedy.
Up front, former All Black back-rower Angus Macdonald will make his first competitive start for the Warriors at blindside flanker, with the team set to be captained by inspirational openside Chris Fusaro.
In all, there are 13 changes to the starting XV that ran out against Connacht, with Scotland international Stuart Hogg named among the replacements having made a prompt recovery from his recent ankle injury.
Head coach Townsend explained: “First and foremost, we’ve picked a team that we strongly believe has the right attributes to win Friday’s game against Zebre.
“There’s real experience in the shape of players like Graeme Morrison, Ruaridh Jackson, DTH van der Merwe, Tom Ryder, Tim Swinson, Angus Macdonald and Josh Strauss, while the younger players we’ve included have all made a great case for selection with the attitude and ability they’ve consistently shown since pre-season began back in June.
“The nature of modern professional rugby is such that you need to have a large group of players all capable of stepping up and delivering when the situation demands. We’re fortunate this season to have such a good amount of strength in depth, and the players we’ve brought in this week have all been chomping at the bit to get out there and prove they’re worthy of regular selection.
“Our aim is to be competing at the business end of both the RaboDirect PRO12 and Heineken Cup season, and as such we have to manage the workload of our players while maintaining a high level of consistency on the pitch regardless of the team we send out.
“We have a lot of faith in the side that will take the field on Friday, both individually and collectively. We’re excited to see them in action in what will be another extremely tough test for us.
“Zebre are yet to win in the RaboDirect PRO12, but they pushed Connacht very close and we know how tough a match we had with the men from Galway. Zebre are full of technical quality up front, have a very experienced stand-off in the shape of Luciano Orquera and exciting backline talent like Sinoti Sinoti.
“We know our set piece and work at the contact area will need to be absolutely spot on if we’re to establish the right platform to service the creative and finishing ability of the players we’ve named behind the scrum.
“It’s great that Josh, Niko and Ofa are involved in the 23. They’ve all hit the ground running in training this week and are desperate to show the Warriors supporters just why we’ve brought them to the club.
“We’re delighted also to see Stuart Hogg back in the mix. Under the care of our medical team, he’s put a lot of hard work into his rehab and has been looking sharp and focussed. He’s a very talented player who will continue to go from strength to strength.
“With Al Kellock rested, we’re really looking forward to seeing Chris Fusaro lead the team as captain. He’s a player who sets high standards for himself and those around him, and will set the tone both through his words and actions.”
Match day squad
Glasgow Warriors: 15 Fraser Thompson, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Byron McGuigan, 12 Graeme Morrison, 11 DTH vd Merwe, 10 Ruaridh Jackson, 9 Sean Kennedy , 8 Josh Strauss, 7 Chris Fusaro (capt), 6 Angus Macdonald, 5 Tim Swinson, 4 Tom Ryder, 3 Mike Cussack, 2 Finley Gillies, 1 Gordon Reid
Replacements: 16 Dougie Hall, 17 Ofa Fainga’anuku, 18 Moray Low, 19 James Eddie, 20 Ryan Wilson, 21 Niko Matawalu, 22 Peter Horne, 23 Stuart Hogg